Board of Deputies’ racial inclusivity report to be revisited after three years

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Board of Deputies’ racial inclusivity report to be revisited after three years

'Groundbreaking' study made 119 recommendations but has seen little follow-through since 2021.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Stephen Bush (pictured) and the Board of Deputies published the Commission for Racial Inclusivity report in 2021
Stephen Bush (pictured) and the Board of Deputies published the Commission for Racial Inclusivity report in 2021

A follow-up report on the implementation of the Board of Deputies’ 2021 racial inclusivity inquiry has been delayed, but is due to be published in the spring, the Board told Jewish News this week.

The grandly-titled Commission on Racial Inclusivity was launched by the Board under the chairmanship of journalist Stephen Bush, then a leading writer with the New Statesman and now associate editor and columnist of the Financial Times.

In his report, Bush and his team said that 17 different areas of communal life had been considered, leading to 119 recommendations “with profound implications for British Jewry”.

Among the recommendations were that “representative bodies and organisations involved in rabbinic training should encourage members of under-represented ethnic groups to put themselves forward for communal roles”, and that “Jewish schools should ensure that their secular curriculum engages with Black history, enslavement and the legacy of colonialism, and review their curriculum through a process led by students, particularly those who define as Black or of Colour”.

Communal institutions, the report said, should commemorate “key dates for diverse parts of the community like the Ethiopian Jewish festival of Sigd and the official Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran (30th November)”. There is little or no indication that any of these recommendations have been followed up.

At the time that the report was published, Stephen Bush said: “I hope my report will enhance communal life for Black Jews, Jews of Colour and Sephardi, Mizrahi and Yemenite Jews. My recommendations cover vast swathes of communal life, and draws on best practice from across our community.

“Their essential components are transparency and openness.… As a community that often frets about its numbers and its future, giving as many people as possible a sense of belonging and a full ability to participate will nourish, strengthen and enrich the Jewish community further, for the benefit of all its members.”

This week, Deputies vice-president Edwin Shuker said that some of the recommendations referred specifically to changes which needed to be made at the Board. He said: “We are pleased to say that the Board has taken on all the recommendations that applied to it. The Jewish Living Experience Exhibition and Jewish Living Online — our flagship educational projects for non-Jewish schools — now particularly reflect the diversity of our community”.

But he revealed that the Board had “also engaged with its own deputies and Jewish community stakeholders to find out in detail how synagogues and Jewish communal organisations have responded to the recommendations of the Commission and, more importantly, what additional action they plan to take”.

Shuker told Jewish News that “a report summarising the entire process is currently in draft form and will be published in the spring. It will highlight areas, such as developing resources, curricula and teacher-training in Jewish schools, which would make our community a more inclusive one”.

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